The PlayStation 2 completed 20 years of existence on March 4. It was on this day in 2000 that the first PlayStation 2 (PS2) console was released in Japan. And well, to put it mildly, console gaming was never the same again. At a time when PC gaming was on the rise, the PS2 firmly established the gaming console as a part of many families living rooms. Small wonder it is the highest selling console of all time.
It might have stopped being manufactured a few years ago, but the PS2 remains an iconic device in tech history, and perhaps the greatest gaming console of its time (all time? We can debate that). So, as it turns twenty, here are twenty facts about the console that stopped the PCs from taking over the gaming world:
1. Generation Six
The PlayStation 2 was the successor of the original PlayStation and was considered to be a sixth-generation console. It was actually released to compete with the Sega Dreamcast, which had been released in Japan in 1998, but actually ended up taking on the likes of the Nintendo GameCube and the original Xbox, both of which were released in 2001. Incidentally, the Dreamcast itself was discontinued in 2001, signaling the end of Sega as a mainstream console player.
2. Who’s your daddy?
Although there are many names associated with the PlayStation, Ken Kutaragi, the former chairman and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, is the one that most associate with the brand. In fact, many call Kutaragi “the father of PlayStation.” He is supposed to have been the person behind many key decisions in the PS2.
3. Designed like a…computer
The design of the original PS2 was actually inspired by a computer. The folks at Sony loved the design of the KDL-22PX300 from Atari. Released in 1993, it was Atari’s last computer and did not do at all well. But its appearance would live on in the PlayStation 2, which had a similar shape!
4. Compatible with PS the first
The PS2 was backward compatible with the original PlayStation, so users could play PS games on it as well. The console had a slot for PlayStation memory cards.
5. Such massive memories…
The standard PlayStation memory card had a capacity of…wait for it…EIGHT MEGABYTES. That’s right, all of 8 MB. The original PS2 also had two USB ports, a firewire port, and some models also had an expansion bay, in which a hard disk drive could be installed.
6. Hey, you could watch films on it too
A surprising element in the PS2 was the fact that it came with a DVD drive. This meant you could watch films on it as well. It made the gaming console more of a family entertainment device than just a gaming one – and its price was only slightly more than that of a high-end DVD player. The console even had a special DVD remote control with it.
7. Games on CDs and DVDs…of different colors
Games for the PS2 were available on CD-ROMs and DVDs. The CD-ROMs were blue in color and the DVDs were silver. Talk of color-coding. Sony seems to have a thing for colored disks – some of the CDs for the original PlayStation were colored black!
8. The console that dared to go online
The PS2 was one of the first consoles (the Dreamcast was the first) to come with support for online gaming. It required a special network adaptor and would not really become a rage until the release of Final Fantasy XI in 2003, but it did give the device a “futuristic” feel.
9. An engine of emotion
It might have been laughed at as just a bit of marketing jargon by some reviewers, but the heart of the Sony PS2 was the “Emotion Engine,” a 128-bit central processing unit. Many now believe that it was this that enabled the PS2 to handle games with cutting edge graphics and seemingly endless environments and free-willed gameplay like GTA 3.
10. A flying start
The PS2 got off to a stunning start. Within a day after the launch, the console had racked up sales of almost a million units. It was priced at roughly USD 299, although it received price cuts later on.
11. Five years to lose some weight
The original PS2 was many things, but one thing it was not was lightweight and svelte. Which is why Sony introduced a slimmer version of the console in 2004. It was more compact and even quieter than the original but did not have an expansion bay for the hard drive.
12. Crazy controllers, please!
Although it was known for its famous Dual Shock 2 gamepad controller, the PS2 was also perhaps the first console to come with some very innovative and downright eccentric controllers. These included a fishing rod, light guns, a Katana sword inspired by the Onimusha series, numerous guitar controllers for the Guitar Hero series, drum set controllers and yes, even a chainsaw (Resident Evil, anyone).
13. An Eye for Augmented Reality
The PS2 got a touch of augmented reality (AR) gaming way back in 2003, with the introduction of the EyeToy, a color web camera manufactured by Logitech. It allowed users to play games using motion and in some cases, even sound – the EyeToy had a microphone built into it. No, it did not quite match the sort of experience we got from the Nintendo Wii, but it certainly got on the AR bandwagon very early.
14. And dance pads
The PS2 became a great “party console” thanks to the availability of “dance pads” on which gamers could dance and see their moves being mimicked by characters on the screen. This made titles like Dance Dance Revolution massive hits and made gaming a very “social” experience.
15. The PlayStation TV
Yes, the PS2 could work with most televisions of its era, but what not too many know is that Sony itself made television that many called a PlayStation television. This was the Bravia KDL-22PX300. Launched in 2010, this was a 22-inch HD-ready television and had a PS2 built into it. How cool is that?
16. Linux for PlayStation
The sheer versatility of the PS2 can be gauged from the fact that it even had a version of Linux that could run on the console. Sony had a package called Linux for PlayStation 2 which came with a keyboard, a mouse, an ethernet adaptor and a hard disk drive!
17. The most consoles sold ever
The PS2 is the highest selling console of all time at the time of writing. The console sold a staggering 155 million units until it was discontinued in 2012.
18. Making a bestseller out of auto theft
The PS2 has seen a number of bestselling titles, and a number of iconic series such as God of War and Metal Gear Solid. But the highest selling game on the platform has been Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which ran up sales of a staggering 17 million and more.
19. Named and wedded to the console
With that sort of popularity, it was hardly surprising that the PS2 attracted some rather fanatical fans. And perhaps one of the most diehard of this tribe was a British citizen initially named Dan Holmes. We say “initially” because he loved his PS2 so much that he got his name changed to…PlayStation 2! He even asked the Church to marry him and his console. We do not know where that went, but we wager any offspring of such a union might well have been called the PS3, the PS4 and so on.
20. Signing off goals!
The PlayStation 2 was officially discontinued in December 2012. But such was the popularity of the console that games continued to be made for it. Interestingly, the last two games for the console were both about football. It is believed that FIFA 2014 was the last game to be made for the platform (it was released in September 2013). The last game, however, to be released for the PS2 was that game’s very famous rival, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2014.